Story by Ian Guerin
If the fat-trimming slow tick in the economy proved one thing for Myrtle Beach’s golf industry, it was that a course better have something special to offer if it wants to stand out from the pack.
The following five may be among the best at accomplishing it.
They each blend terrific golf with excellent layouts. But they also are among the most scenic rounds South Carolina’s Grand Strand has to offer.
The embarrassment of riches Barefoot Golf has at its disposal is well known. With its Love course, however, Barefoot has one of the more unique visuals found on a course anywhere up and down the South Carolina coastline. Davis Love III designed the outskirts of Nos. 3-7 here with artificial ruins that debuted alongside the course’s opening in 2000.
What appears to be the remainder of a corner of a structure and then columns and additional brick walls were inserted in and around greens and tee boxes during that five-hole stretch. They served as one of the trick shot competitions for a recent season of Golf Channel’s series “The Big Break”, and continue to provide talking points for the round year after year.
The yachts pulling into the Grande Dunes Marina aren’t the only distractions from low-score golf at the National Golf Course Owners Association of America’s 2009 “National Golf Course of the Year.”
Woven into various portions of the round are direct sight lines of the Intracoastal Waterway from atop the bluff holding Grande Dunes’ exterior holes. The ninth and 10th holes - connected sans midway break if you so choose - each run parallel to the Waterway. And then on the par 3 No. 14, it doesn’t take that errant of a shot off the tee for a ball find its way into it.
Driving onto the property, first-timers find themselves in awe of the centuries-old moss-covered oaks lining the entrance. Then it’s on to the Antebellum-style clubhouse.
Out on the course as the old indigo and rice plantation, the views continue. There are plenty more of those beautiful trees, wooden walking bridges crossing water and marshlands where the property’s crops uses to get much of their water.
Mike Strantz utilized those surroundings in his very first design, and more than two decades after Caledonia first opened for business, the environment remains every bit a part of one of the area’s most decorated courses.
The ride up the 211-yard ninth hole may otherwise blend into the background of one of the most notorious courses Myrtle Beach has to offer. Then, about midway up the par 3, it hits you. There’s the Atlantic Ocean off to the right of the clubhouse. Dunes Club is the lone track on the Grand Strand with a direct view of the body of water that helped put the area on the map.
Most would argue the Robert Trent Jones design (and Rees Jones redesign) has done its share influence the golf scene.
From start to finish, the majestic course - the second one built in Myrtle Beach - doubles as a photographers dream. For many, it peaks at No. 13, a par 5 that bends a full 90 degrees around Lake Singleton, the site of the nearby marsh and accompanying cabin that inspired Dunes Club’s original framework back in 1948.
If it wasn’t for the golf, the history of Willbrook Plantation may be worthy of a field trip all by itself.
Originally three separate plantations that have been traced back as early as 1711, the property lining the east bank of the Waccamaw River was used primarily for rice. Many of the slaves who died on the property were buried there, and others who were set free after the abolishment of slavery requested to return after their deaths to join them.
In total, six historical markers adorn the course, opened in 1988, and every now and again, another archeological find is made.